Ibanez's swing has really deteriorated over time - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mariners Land Ibanez, Keep Mitchell(!)

The Seattle Mariners designated D.J. Mitchell for assignment to make room for Raul Ibanez. But D.J. Mitchell cleared waivers, so he's sticking around.

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6 Total Updates since December 22, 2012
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D.J. Mitchell Isn't Going Anywhere

When the Seattle Mariners officially signed Raul Ibanez, the corresponding roster move was the designation of D.J. Mitchell for assignment, which forced us to write about Mitchell for basically the first time. What that did was establish a precedent. Once we wrote about Mitchell one time, it set us up to write about Mitchell again, in the event that he got claimed, or got traded, or got released, or got mugged, or cleared waivers. In this way, precedents are dangerous in a work environment -- they can lead to more work. This is an example of more work that could've been avoided. D.J. Mitchell cleared waivers.

So the Mariners didn't lose D.J. Mitchell in order to add Raul Ibanez. It always feels like a bonus when a player clears waivers; you still have the player, and now the team has less of a commitment to him. There are limited 40-man roster spots, so in a lot of cases it's preferable to have a guy not on the 40-man roster. The alternate viewpoint is that everybody wants pitching and D.J. Mitchell went by entirely unclaimed. What does that tell us about how the rest of the league views D.J. Mitchell? What does that tell us about D.J. Mitchell?

Probably nothing we didn't already know or assume. This makes me wonder about things from the player's perspective. For Mitchell, he cleared waivers, so he gets to stick around in Tacoma. That's where he finished 2012, and that's where he'll begin 2013, barring injury. That's convenient. That might make Mitchell happy. But then, is that offset and then some by Mitchell knowing that nobody wanted him? He might understand that a lot of teams have full 40-man rosters at this point, and this is when teams try to slip guys through waivers knowing that other teams will be reluctant to make claims, but now Mitchell knows that not one single team wanted to exchange one single player from its 40-man roster for D.J. Mitchell, who is 25 and a starting pitcher who isn't awful. This has to be tough on a player's self-confidence, and I do honestly wonder how a player like Mitchell might process this news. I'm not interested in what a player would say he feels like. I'm interested in what a player would actually feel like.

So this is bittersweet news for D.J. Mitchell. It's purely sweet news for the Mariners, assuming they wanted Mitchell to stick around more than they didn't. It's also conceivably awkward for Mitchell to remain with an organization that just left him out in a bowl on the porch, but okay, I'll grant that I might be overthinking all this. I probably shouldn't give this more thought than D.J. Mitchell has.

Last year, with the Rainiers, Mitchell threw 26 percent of his pitches when ahead in the count, and 25 percent of his pitches when behind in the count. Also with the Rainiers, he posted a 2.96 ERA. Some people believe that people don't change, and maybe that's true, about people. It isn't true about ERAs. ERAs do change. D.J. Mitchell's ERA is about to. Guess in which direction!


Raul Ibanez And Polling The Audience

Raul Ibanez in 2013, or Mike Carp for a good deal cheaper? It's up to you! It's not really up to you, but the poll results are up to you.


The Meaning Of D.J. Mitchell

The Mariners designated D.J. Mitchell for assignment to make roster room for Raul Ibanez, and that seems like something we can talk about.


Mariners Open Space for Ibanez by Cutting Mitchell

The signing of Raul Ibanez -- blech -- requires a spot on the 40-man roster, which was full with 40 men. So somebody had to go and that somebody couldn't be Raul Ibanez so instead it is D.J. Mitchell, one of the pitchers who came over from the Yankees in the Ichiro Suzuki trade.


Mariners Sign Raul Ibanez's Experience

The other day, the Seattle Mariners traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales, and based on third-year arbitration projections, the trade should end up saving the Mariners about $2.6 million. On Saturday, the Mariners guaranteed a little more than that to Raul Ibanez, on a one-year contract. Does this mean the Mariners traded Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez? No, of course not, that doesn't make any sense, Ibanez didn't play for the Angels. These are separate transactions. What kind of question is that? You don't know anything!

This is a move that's been rumored for quite some time, and initially, it didn't look like the Mariners were a good fit for Ibanez, given their roster. Then they added Morales, making Ibanez look like even less of a fit than before. But here we are anyway, and Ibanez's is a guaranteed, major-league contract. The Mariners' roster right now is something of a puzzle, but I suppose these moves shouldn't be evaluated in isolation. The Mariners must have some kind of plan for Ibanez and their roster will presumably look different in a few months from the way it looks now.

In fact, we know the roster will look different, because at present the roster doesn't include Ibanez and does include the player who will have to be dropped to make room for Ibanez. There's a corresponding 40-man roster move a'coming, as a player could find himself designated for assignment right before Christmas.

From one perspective, this is a tricky move to understand. Ibanez is 40 years old, and he can't play the field, and he's spent the last few years in home ballparks that are generous to left-handed hitters. Here are Ibanez's home and road splits from 2009-2012, during which time he played for the Phillies and the Yankees:

Home: .280/.349/.517, 1,086 plate appearances
Road: .239/.301/.417, 1,115 plate appearances

Ibanez is a limited lefty bat who doesn't help the team in the field. The Mariners already had Mike Carp and Eric Thames as limited lefty bats who don't help the team in the field. Carp and Thames are younger, and Carp and Thames have the ability to hit the occasional dinger. On a performance or talent basis, Ibanez is an odd match.

But this isn't about performance or talent, at least not first and foremost. The Mariners have said all offseason they're looking to bring in some veteran experience, and in that regard Ibanez is exactly what they've been searching for. What he has that Carp and Thames don't are almost 2,000 games played. He's been to the World Series, once, and he's been to the league championship series four times. People love Raul Ibanez for his professionalism and his intensity, and the idea is that Ibanez will be a team leader, that he'll be some sort of positive role model.

Talk to people around the Mariners and they'll tell you the team's been missing a leader like Ibanez. The people in charge of the Mariners obviously agree, and while in theory Eric Wedge and the coaching staff should be enough, those guys aren't players, and players respond better to players, even if they're old ones. If you believed the Mariners needed a proven veteran, Ibanez makes all the sense in the world. He is exactly what the Mariners wanted.

We just end up in that place where we can't measure things. Where we have to take the team's word for it. The Mariners want for Ibanez to be a positive influence on the younger players. Maybe he'll be that and maybe he won't, maybe he'll make a meaningful difference and maybe he won't, and we won't be sure. We won't be able to compare the team to the same team under the same conditions, only Ibanez-less. Just because we can't measure something doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but this is a question of faith.

The Mariners value Ibanez at a few million dollars, meaning they value Ibanez's experience at a few million dollars over Carp and Thames' raw skillsets. That tells you right there that they're pretty convinced, and maybe that's enough. Baseball people have always believed strongly in the importance of catcher defense, and lately we're getting a better statistical understanding that, yeah, catcher defense is important. Baseball people aren't always full of shit. But baseball people have also believed strongly in clutch hitting, and batter vs. pitcher matchups, and hot/cold streaks. Those ideas have been more or less disproved, and maybe Ibanez won't be of any real use. Maybe he will have an insignificant effect on Dustin Ackley's career path.

The Mariners signed a familiar player because of something we can't measure. It's hard to tell exactly how he fits, and this is a non-impact move by a team still looking to make impact moves. It's weird that the Seattle Mariners just signed Raul Ibanez. But it's also kind of the least weird thing.


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